Sun, 13 Jul 2003

Who's who in the past, present and future

Muara Bagdja, Contributor, Jakarta

Since the country proclaimed its independence 58 years ago, every ensuing decade has seen the emergence of new fashion designers. While some have disappeared as quickly as last's season's designs, others have left a lasting impression on the development of the fashion sector.

Here we select the legends, and the legends in the making, of Indonesian fashion, from the two sectors of ethnic and nonethnic designs.

Legend (nonethnic)

Peter Sie: The first Indonesian to formally study fashion design and decide to make it his career. The latter choice inspired many budding young designers at a time when fashion was still looked down upon as a career, especially for men. With his fashion training obtained in the Netherlands, his designs are distinctly western in style. In a career spanning from the 1950s to the present, he continues to exclusively make designs to order.

Legend (ethnic)

Iwan Tirta: No other designer has explored batik better and more profoundly than Iwan Tirta.

From a background in law, he began his career as a designer in the 1970s and can rightfully be called the pioneer in changing the image of batik. With his efforts and guidance, it has gone from the cloth used as a sling to carry a baby was carried to the material for glittering evening gowns and gentlemen's formal attire.

Iwan also took sacred palace batik motifs and gave them a broader reach on modern gowns. He is also the first designer to use batik on silk and chiffon. Prada (gold embroidered) batik is also considered his creation. But he is changing with the times and tastes, using batik on lycra and cooperating with Royal Doulton to produce plates with batik motifs. "I've done all this to ensure that batik will survive," the 68-year-old designer said.

The Present (nonethnic)

Adrian Gan: He began designing in early 1990 and gained a broad circle of customers, but it was only in early 2000 that he presented his debut collection. He has been quickly accepted in the local fashion community because his elegant, glamorous designs fit in with the current trends. His patterns are intricate, with many oriental designs included.

Denny Wirawan: As his designs go along with the major current in local fashion trends, he has gained increasing recognition, especially because his designs suit women and their bodies. Intrinsically feminine but contoured to the way that most women look, they are made on soft fabric.

He graduated from Susan Budiardjo fashion design school and gained experience at Prajudi's fashion house. His trademark is ready to wear dresses that are light and suitable for any occasion.

Didi Budiardjo: Known as an evening dress designer who emphasizes the lines of his dresses and sophisticated patterns. His designs are unique in that, while remaining strongly modern in style, they are influenced by traditional designs found in such areas as Sumatra or Bali. His statement is that evening gowns are suitable wear for Indonesian women and cannot be dismissed as "western" fashion anymore.

Eddy Betty: Upon his return to Jakarta after studying fashion design in Paris, he began his own fashion business. He brought along with him the bustier, which has since become a favorite among Indonesian women for evening gowns. With its figure-hugging designs emphasizing the female form, it resembles the form- fitting kebaya (traditional Javanese blouse), which has also emerged as his design specialty.

Sebastian Gunawan: When he introduced his ballgown designs at his debut fashion show in mid-1990, many scoffed that the fashion would never catch on in the country. However, the Italian fashion school graduate persisted -- and has been successful in carving out his own niche in the market.

His designs, created along with his wife, Cristina Panarese, have emerged as their own fashion phenomenon and inspired many other designers. Titi DJ and Krisdayanti are among the entertainers who have popularized his designs.

The Present (ethnic)

Baron Manangsang: He is one of the new generation of pioneers in batik design, which he makes on textured woven fabric with the play of soft color gradation. With highly refined craftsmanship, his woven batik cloth is given a touch of beautiful embroidery to make it not only a functional piece of clothing but also a collector's item. His collaboration with a number of other Indonesian fashion designers has produced a greater variety of batik cloth for women to choose from.

Biyan: Amid increasingly strong influences of globalization in the local fashion world, he has introduced a new approach to a dress for Indonesian women, marrying oriental elements with international-style fashion design. This "East Meet West" finds expression in gowns marked by touches of craftsmanship, long known as the trademark of Asian fashion. The ultrafemininity of chiffon dresses with tiny embroidered ornaments and beads have made them popular among women in Jakarta and Singapore, one of the places where he markets his works.

Edward Hutabarat: While many other designers turned to the west for their influences, Edward stayed true to the kebaya, but revived for modern times. His success is attributable to the glamorous presentation of the blouse: Laced and brocaded with tiny ornamental roses it is feminine and beautiful, and its success among consumers has led to it being copied by others. His presence is important in Indonesian fashion because he continues to prod Indonesian women to wear the traditional blouse and hairbun despite the overwhelming saturation of evening gowns in the market.

Ghea S. Panggabean: All credit must go to her for keeping ethnic-style designs at the forefront of local fashion, even with the swing to ostentatious evening wear. Since early in her career in the 1980s, she has consistently explored designs based on various traditional elements. But her strength lies in her transfer of traditional motifs to printed motifs on modern, casual designs. A recent honor was an assignment to design a kebaya for Datin Seri Endon Mahmood Badawi, wife of Malaysia's deputy prime minister.

Obin: As a cloth designer, she is part of the new generation of batik designers using its motifs in soft colors on textured woven cloth. Her works are popular among women not only because of their novelty value but because they have liberated them from the conventional dictates about wearing batik cloth. Thanks to her designs, women are free to wear batik by simply tying it around the body, leaving their hair flowing freely (no more hairbuns!) and giving a more relaxed impression to the fabric.

The Future (nonethnic)

Sally Koeswanto: She studied fashion in Australia, but returned to her birthplace of Surabaya in 1994 and began a made- to-order dress business. In 1998 she moved to Jakarta and opened a boutique the next year. To gain greater public exposure, she held her first fashion show in 2001. Her designs have elegant lines and show a strong contrast of materials, for example, the combination of leather and lace. She is known as an up-and-coming designer of glamorous, elegant clothes. Not surprisingly, singer Krisdayanti is one of her customers.

The Future (ethnic)

Oscar Lawalata: He began to attract the attention of the local fashion community in the late 1990s, a timely appearance as some new faces were sorely needed in the local fashion community. He was also the second prize winner in the 1999 ASEAN Young Designers Contest in Singapore. A celebrity in his own right for his androgynous appearance and interesting personality, his works are defined by uniquely loose and symmetrical patterns. It is interesting to note his wish to explore Indonesian materials for his designs, using Makassar woven fabric from early in his career until today.